Despite NASA using virtual reality for decades to aid in their development and training, it has recently turned to the VR consumer market to leverage the technology of the HTC Vive to aid with its training simulations to tackle the difficulties of preparing people working in space.
In a talk given to attendees of NVIDIA’s GTC conference, Matthew Noyes (Aerospace Technologist) and Francisco Delgado (Aerospace Technologist / Project Manager from NASA) demonstrated their use of consumer grade virtual reality and graphics engine technology and the consumers headsets, primarily the HTC Vive, as well as the motion controllers, to build an accurate simulation of the International Space Station.
NASA refer to virtual physical environments built around real models as Hybrid Reality; a VR portion of the simulation is modelled around the physical space Astronauts would experience in real-life, including real features and obstacles, with the aim of enhancing realism and immersion. If a step or a door exists in the virtual world representation then the Astronaut should be able to feel that in real-life, hence the term Hybrid Reality.
Additionally, the talk described NASA’s development of a re-configurable CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) technology, which comprises of an large video wall allowing NASA to offer simulations for scenarios which at present don’t allow the use of a VR headset, such as equipping a space suit.
It is promising that NASA are turning to consumer grade VR headsets to aid in their simulations giving an impression of just how advanced headsets like the HTC Vive are, and that’s fantastic news for consumers and their VR experience.